Congratulations to Cllr Charlie Dewhirst who was been selected as the Conservative candidate to fight the Hammersmith constituency at the next General Election. The sitting Labour MP, Andrew Slaughter, had a majority of 3,549 last time.
Charlie is a fellow ward councillor of mine in Ravenscourt Park and a good friend. But can he win? He is a tremendously capable, energetic and good humoured campaigner. On Wednesday morning I arrived at the Ravenscourt Park tube station at 7.15 to hand out leaflets to local residents countering some scaremongering from Labour about Charing Cross Hospital. Charlie was already there, bright and breezy. That was a pretty typical experience over the last few years. Now that he has become the Parliamentary candidate, imagine what he will be like.
As a local councillor, Charlie has worked on plans to replace the Hammersmith Flyover with a tunnel. He has examined how the Pupil Premium funding can be most effectively used in local schools. He has spent a lot of time listening to local residents and the police about fighting crime. Our borough has seen a 16 per cent fall in crime in the past year – the sharpest in London. Of course, he is also a champion of the Council Tax cutting we have achieved locally.
Originally from Yorkshire, Charlie works for UK Sport, the body responsible for delivering Olympic and Paralympic success in this country. He enjoys football, cricket and racing. He organised a fund-raising event for the Stroke Association, walking the Yorkshire Three Peaks, which raised over £40,000. He has also helped the Royal British Legion with fundraising.
For the Conservatives to gain Hammersmith at the next election will certainly be a challenge. However, there are a number of local factors which will be positive: not least the opening of the West London Free School which provided the venue for last night’s meeting which was presided over by the school’s founder, Toby Young.
It is certainly not a battle for the fainthearted. The Labour MP is thoroughly dishonest. At the last election Labour put out leaflets to council tenants claiming the Conservatives would move them to Barking and Dagenham. There was another one for mothers saying children’s centres would close. A special leaflet for Muslims had the smear that the Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey was prejudiced against them. But Charlie will be tough enough to fight, and well informed enough to counter the lies. In some ways it will also be easier, as Labour’s dishonest claims last time have been disproved.
Last night Charlie spoke powerfully about his belief in individual liberty and the rule of law. He gave a vision of an opportunity society. He spoke of his wish to see Britain once again become a self governing country and that Conservative victory at the next election would offer a chance of this with the in/out EU referendum.
There will certainly be a lively 18 months coming up in Hammersmith politics. After which, Charlie Dewhirst will make an excellent MP for the constituency.